Bebe Rexha was spotted wearing protective goggles at her concert Friday — and it wasn’t just a fashion statement. Instead, it was a reminder of recent injurious interactions between artists and some overzealous fans who crossed the line at recent live shows.
Rexha is one of several artists who were recently struck in the face at their concerts. Videos of the events went viral, prompting viewers to ask, once again, whether people have forgotten how to behave at concerts. Artists, fans and experts alike are calling on concertgoers to be respectful of the musicians they come to see, noting that many people forget that celebrities are also human.
“This trend of throwing things at performers while they are on stage must come to an end. (Bebe, Ava, AND NOW Kelsea Ballerini…) It’s so disrespectful and very dangerous. Please just enjoy the music I beg of you…” pop singer Charlie Puth tweeted last week.
While throwing objects onstage at concerts isn’t new, experts say the way we feel about the act and how we treat artists is changing.
“People forget pop stars are people,” said Kristin Lieb, a marketing professor at Emerson College in Boston and the author of “Gender, Branding, and the Modern Music Industry. “Audiences think: ‘I paid for this. She needs to do what I want now.’”
Fans online expressed safety concerns for touring artists, specifically female musicians, several of them pointing out that most of the viral videos involved women being struck.
Others bemoaned concertgoers’ trying to get “TikTok moments” by throwing items to get good videos. Many have also simply urged people to stop throwing things at artists altogether.
“Can people just...stop throwing things at artists during their concerts? Like, y’all are getting WEIRD with all of this. It’s scary, honestly,” a person tweeted.
“This whole era of throwing things at performers while they are on stage needs to stop. Concerts are supposed to be a safe space and we need to provide that for each other and the artists that are helping us to create that safe space,” another tweeted.
Morgan Milardo, the managing director at the Berklee Popular Music Institute at the Berklee College of Music in Massachusetts, said artists often understand throwing objects at concerts is an occupational hazard to some extent.
Milardo doesn’t think fans are acting out of malice in most instances; rather they are trying to give tokens of their adoration to their favorite artists. However, she added, the desire for virality feeds into a lot of aspects of life today.
As a society, we need to work to overcome these attention-grabbing moments and look beyond that and really get back to the root of why we go to concerts.
Morgan Milardo, managing director at the Berklee Popular Music Institute
“As a society, we need to work to overcome these attention-grabbing moments and look beyond that and really get back to the root of why we go to concerts,” Milardo said. “And it’s not so that we can have a viral moment on TikTok for ourselves. Concerts are supposed to offer a community where people can come together to share in the magic of live music.”
Lieb said some fans, like the one who injured Rexha by throwing a phone, are more interested in “prioritizing entertainment over an artist’s comfort.”
Lieb said people want female artists, in particular, to be vulnerable, gracious and open with their fans. The expectation, she said, is that “she should be able to withstand anything” fans want from her.
People’s perception of throwing objects has also changed as they’ve grown more aware of safety issues at concerts after high-profile incidents like the Astroworld tragedy.
“Every day we turn on our phones and TVs and we see news of violence in the world,” Milardo said. “I think that because of this, these types of circumstances that are happening at concerts are sort of a reminder of why folks might feel more unsafe in large gatherings and crowds than they used to.”
Some fans wondered whether the recent incidents of artists’ getting hit might affect how concerts are organized. Several fans feared that such behavior would push artists to put up higher barricades at concerts or stop touring altogether.
“Stop throwing things at our girlies or they’ll make us go back to concerts on Zoom,” a person tweeted.
Lieb speculated that the behavior might encourage artists to institute new rules for their concerts, such as no-phones policies or even netting onstage to make sure people don’t hit them.
“There’s so much to be lost by not behaving properly,” Lieb said.
Will things change any time soon?
It’s unlikely, Milardo said, though individual artists may choose to incorporate more security measures based on their own experiences.
Still, “with every incident that happens, the industry responds in a really professional and appropriate manner to help keep everybody safe,” Milardo said.
Ultimately, culture at concerts is set by fan-driven norms, meaning change is in the hands of the fans themselves.
“It’s supposed to be a community-building moment where the love and respect for the artist is shared across the entire venue,” Milardo said. “We shouldn’t have to worry about a chicken nugget hitting somebody in the eye or the back of their head, right? I mean, it’s more than these viral sensations on social media platforms. And with that said, ultimately everyone in attendance at a concert is responsible for keeping one another safe.”